Full-time chief not yet needed
We have two questions for the city council: What's your hurry? Where's the fire? Last week's decision to add a full-time salary for a fire chief to next year's budget seems a little premature, and it leaves us wondering about the demand for a full-time chief.
Eudora is no doubt a growing city with increasing needs. Fire protection is a concern for every resident. The council has upgraded equipment and renovated the fire department's building in the last few years, both substantial investments. But trying to justify a full-time chief, frankly, doesn't hold water.
Last year, the Eudora fire department was dispatched on 81 calls, according to Jim Denney, Director of Emergency Communications for Douglas County. That certainly justifies at least a part-time position, but if the city is determined to go forward with a full-time chief, we hope it requires the chief to perform services beyond shining up the trucks for the parades and going out on service calls in our new $200,000 truck. The chief should be trained as an emergency first responder as well as handling public education events such as schools presentations.
The city could attempt to have the chief earn his salary through tasks that actually earn money for city coffers. Things such as fire code inspections and levying fines on offending businesses and contractors would certainly help offset the salary. Give the business a warning first, but residents would feel better that the businesses they frequent were up to safety code.
Other towns our size have done similar things, including Tonganoxie, which has a full-time firefighter. Louisburg and Wakarusa Township have full-time chiefs, but respond to large rural areas, increasing the demand on their departments. De Soto relies on a volunteer force.
Eudora is a bedroom community, which potentially could take a lot of our volunteer force out of the area during the workday. Still, it is our belief that for the city to justify this expense, the chief better do a lot more than handle parade duty.